Wednesday, June 01, 2011

About Being a Mormon Writer

The following is from an article called "Playing to Type: Lynn Nottage on Acting and Race," by Hilton Als, in May 23's New Yorker (p. 86). It describes Nottage's childhood love of musicals, then continues:

"But when [playwright Lynn Nottage] set out to become a playwright she exchanged the joy of musicals for the mantle of racial identity, which made her early plays feel like a didactic throwback to the Black Arts Movement. This is not an unusual phenomenon: black artists are often torn between the work they do for themselves and the work they feel they should do for their people. Eventually, Nottage realized that she didn't have to write black; she was black, and her race would be inhernent in everything she did--as would her feminism."

Now go back and insert "Mormon" for "black." I think too many of us (me included) sometimes sacrifice our joy and passion for trying to Say Something. And often we feel it's our job go Say Something Mormon (or, perhaps, Something Moral). But I believe very much what Nottage came to realize--that just be being true to our own world views (which, as Mormons, are inherently optimistic--ultimately--but also realistic--hopefully), honest in the way we depict things, we are saying something. (And, in fact, we fail artistically as soon as we try to insert a message.)

What do you think?


Wm Morris said...

Excellent point, Darlene.

I wonder, though, if perhaps the greater danger for some Mormon writers is the opposite -- working too hard to not say something, muting their Mormon-ness.

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with William that LDS artists often go to the opposite extreme. And I can't fully agree with the generalization that wanting to say something specifically Mormon or generally moral will always lead to bad art. I think Dickens or Victor Hugo or Flannery O'Connor or, well, lots of other great writers set out to say something moral.

But I fully agree that most didactic literature fails, and that it's a beautiful thing when someone lets their identity and beliefs show through their art instead of trying to stamp it on in some artificial way.

Laura said...

I love this! Just being myself and interacting with my art, instead of dictating it, is one of biggest challenges. Strangely enough, the whole idea is usually a little frightening to me because I don't know where it will take me. But this quote is encouraging.

Wm and myimaginaryblog, examples?

Ross Wright said...

I liked your comments concerning being a Morman writer.
Being a southerner by birth, culture and heritage, I have never enjoyed the works of the icons of southern literature because they wrote of a world I never saw nor knew until I was grown-then I had to look for it. These writers wrote of a disfunctional character(s) in a functional world. As a Mormon, I see functional characters(s) struggling in a disfunctional world.
Of course I'm an idealist, I seek to write about what could or should be comparted to what is for too many people.